Peru and the Amazon with G Adventures
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A jungle journey
the humid morning following a short but torrential rainfall the rising sun
glistens on rows of silver fish neatly spread over leaves on a table hewn from
branches. Next to them is a wooden house perched on stilts where a chicken sits
on her fluffy brood and colourful cockerels scratch in the mud.
translation by our guide Victor, the owner - a member of a remote Amazonian
tribe who speaks one of many ethnic languages and whose community can only be
reached by boat - explains that once dried the fish will help feed his family
through the winter. For these people the Peruvian rainforest is a natural
superstore, providing everything they need for food, house building, children’s
toys and medicine.
latter is most markedly demonstrated that afternoon when we visit a shaman;
also notably a woman. Practising animism, the belief that trees, plants and
creatures possess a spirit, Carola lines up rows of old bottles containing
indefinable liquids she creates from plants revered for their medicinal properties,
and often involving lengthy treks to find them. Combined with her healing
rituals, her eco-pharmacy provides the health care for nine villages.
talks about the worrying rise in South American charlatans who ‘promise’
tourists’ spiritual awakening - sometimes with fatal consequences - with the
use of ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink taken during shamanic ceremonies and
which Carola imbibes twice weekly. She shows us the bottle, but naturally there
is no question of us trying it. Instead she demonstrates the wonderfully named
dragon’s blood, a deep red tree sap that turns milky white on the skin and
soothes cuts, bites and other irritations.
in a circle as Carola chants and blows smoke over us to attract good
spirits - and irrespective of any
individual faiths - we feel we’re in a very special place sharing something
totally authentic that’s far removed from mainstream tourism. It’s an
impression that remains with us all week.
journey had begun in Lima. With so many visitors to Peru heading for the magnet
of the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu it’s capital city is often
overlooked, and unfairly so. We appreciated time to discover the UNESCO-listed
centre, typified by beautifully ornate Moorish wooden balconies and the grand
Plaza Mayor square with the noon changing of the guard ceremony. Other
distinctive neighbourhoods include Barranco, an artistic neighbourhood with
individual galleries, shops and bars. It’s here that British-born Mari Solari,
who moved to Peru in the 60s, champions the traditional and beautifully
intricate craftwork of Peru’s indigenous tribes inside her combined home and
gallery, Las Pallas. It’s a treasure trove showcasing the rich creative
tradition. Items range from hugely detailed wall hangings to tiny charms - each
one with a story that Mari can relate.
members of the G Adventures’ group joined optional organised tours, while
others explored individually, uncovering gems such as the Amaz restaurant,
which provided a taste of things to come with its fresh and contemporary take
Amazonian jungle food (albeit I bypassed the giant snails and opted for tasty
vegetarian dishes instead). Peru is a leading exporter of organic coffee and
caffeine fans won’t want to miss the Neira Cafe Lab in Miraflores where Harry
Neira lovingly roasts and grinds quality coffees
and hosts tastings. His enthusiasm and knowledge is infectious and it’s no
surprise he is at the forefront of Lima’s artisan caffeine scene.
next day a flight of less than two hours transported us to a completely
different world and at Iquotos, a bustling riverside town founded by Jesuit
missionaries, we boarded Amatista. The intimate 30-passenger vessel takes
passengers deep into the rainforest along a stretch of South America’s largest
river and deep into the 8,000-square-mile Pacaya-Samiria Reserve, Peru’s
largest protected habitat.
were woken early the following morning - watches already discarded to tune into
jungle time - and it was impossible not to feel in awe of the dense rainforest
stretching like a vivid green mantle as far as the eye could see. Covering 60%
of Peru, more than any other Amazonian country, it is home to only 6% of its
population yet the diversity of its flora and fauna is unmatched anywhere else
on the planet.
Amatista’s two skiffs, we went on an early expedition to make the most of
daybreak wildlife spotting opportunities and arrived back to avoid the sultry
heat of midday when the rainforest sleeps. As the boat glided through the
glassy water filled with floating hyacinths our guide mimicked the call of
passing birds, which responded, and picked out sleeping sloths, and a line of
tiny Pinocchio bats sleeping in a perfect line on a tree. By late afternoon we
set off again, and the dusk heralded the onset of the evening jungle shift.
These outings heralded some of the most dramatic moments. One night we
sheltered under the industrial waterproofs provided by the boat as an electric
storm pierced the sky. Later Victor plunged his bare hands into the water by
the shoreline and skilfully plucked out a caiman, a small but equally fearsome
member of the alligator family. We were able to get a close look before he
released it to swim silently away.
some safaris, Amazonian Peru is not about ticking off boxes when you sight
large, and often uncamouflaged creatures. The magic of the rainforest is having
your eyes opened - courtesy of the guides - to tiny tree frogs, insects, snakes
and mammals that make their home in the water and dense forest canopy. One day
Victor made us wait after he heard an almost imperceptible (to us) rustling
high in the trees. We stood patiently and minutes later were rewarded with the
joyful sight of a colony of squirrel monkeys running and leaping through the
night we read up on the many birds, animals and insects we’d seen during the
day and relaxed over tasty meals followed by drinks in Amatista’s open-air bar;
conversations interspersed by the sound of some the rainforest’s innumerable
Amazon is often referred to as the “lungs of the earth”, producing around 20%
of the world’s oxygen. Our incredible adventure also introduced us to its
heartbeat and the very essence of what makes this incredible eco-system tick.
Adventures offers the six-night Amazon River Adventure itinerary from £1,279,
including return flights from London, two nights in Lima, transfers and a
four-night cruise with all on board meals, excursions and cultural programme.
For information on Peru and the Amazon visit www.peru.travel.
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